The Reaction: Hardy an essential piece

Recruits will be the first to tell you: Tavaras Hardy is an essential piece of the Northwestern basketball program.

FORT WAYNE, Ind.— Yes, Chris Collins charmed the masses during his introductory press conference at Welsh-Ryan Arena. He answered the questions with grace and confidence, paving way for a brand-new era of Northwestern basketball—or so we expected.

So how do we evaluate the early returns? By all means, Collins clearly believes that he can bring this program to another level. It was the ehh-but-true "point B to point C" argument that Bill Carmody skeptics championed. Carmody did outstanding work throughout this career, but it never seemed enough.

The absolute finest move of his coaching career thus far was the decision to retain Tavaras Hardy. It would have been easy for the new head coach to usher in entirely new faces. But he understands the importance of attracting recruits.

Hardy's prowess on the trail was in full display at the Spiece Run N Slam tournament. With at least seven legit 16U and 17U targets on hand, just about each one mentioned the importance of Hardy. Rather than wincing upon hearing about the change in Evanston, they instead took deep breaths when NU announced Hardy's return.

Jordan Ash and Tavaras Hardy have developed a strong relationship. Hardy spotted the point guard at age 15, and that paid dividends as Ash's young career progressed. He'll meet Collins with NU among his top options.

Every recruit who gives a damn about attending NU has spoken with Hardy. Many speak with tens of coaches per week, yet when I mentioned Hardy's name, they immediately recognized him and expressed similar praise.

He's into more than just their game. He's into their lives and understands them.

He's excited to see them play. He's an open communicator who makes the process that much easier.

They like him. They consider him strongly tied to Northwestern, and so many more young players will. With Collins feeling the same ambition, they could develop into a powerhouse. They're going after four-star prospect Trevon Bluiett with great intensity.

Recruiting, even in the Collins era, seems to start with Hardy.

High school players will be the first to tell you this: What a great move, Chris Collins. Even in this difficult transition, the one constant helps the program in untold ways.

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